By Tommy Hough
Like you, I'm heartened today, and I feel a great sense of relief with the changing of administrations in Washington, D.C. The last four years have been so traumatic for our nation, I think we're all in a state of shock that may last for some time.
Unlike previous periods of national unrest, this time we didn't have the benefit of an opposition with a shared adherence to reason, a commitment to accuracy, or a willingness to exist in a shared reality. With everything we've grown to deal with over the last four years, from choosing which presidential or policy outrage to respond to, which one to put in perspective, and which one to put on the shelf because we didn't have the emotional bandwidth that week to process it, it may take several weeks for us to fully realize the transition in administrations has occurred and find a spring in our step again.
To our nation's credit, in times of peace, war, and tragedy, we have always ensured a secure, peaceful transition of power. Today was a continuation of that great tradition. But I find it terribly sad that, for the first time in our history, we've had to conduct a presidential inauguration under such highly militarized conditions, with over 25,000 National Guard troops mobilized to protect Washington, D.C., and ensure the inauguration goes smoothly in the wake of the domestic terrorist attack on the legislative branch of our federal government.
Even President Lincoln's second inauguration, held at the height of the Civil War in 1865 with tens of thousands of Union troops defending the nation's capital, wasn't as divorced from the public as today's transfer of power was. That necessity demanded it makes this an extraordinary, and regrettable, moment in our history.
It remains unbelievable, even after four years of the previous administration's incitements, that concerns are as high as they are over the threat of attacks by radicalized right-wing elements, empowered by ridiculous conspiracy theories and decades of misinformation, emboldened by easy access to murderous weapons of war and military hardware, coupled with the grotesque lie enabled by the departed president and his acolytes in Congress that the results of the 2020 election were fraudulent.
Who among us would have ever believed hordes of our fellow citizens – armed, violent, prepared to take hostages and conduct "citizen's arrests" for absurd, wholly imagined crimes – would behave as they did on Jan. 6th, engaging in an attack on our democracy that left five people dead, including a Capitol Police officer, and which drove another officer to take his own life several days later?
Who among us would have ever believed fellow Americans would be incited to sedition by a sitting President of the United States? Like the authoritarian carnival barker he is, the president ginned up his mob on live TV with the most inflammatory remarks ever uttered by a chief executive, and then dispatched the mob to the Capitol saying he'd be walking with them while instead he slinked back to the White House to safely watch the mayhem unfold on television. And who would have ever believed these individuals would then photograph themselves, in real time, live streaming their violent crimes on the web in all their grotesque entitlement.
Who would have ever believed reason and reality would be in such short supply among Americans in the third decade of the 21st century?
You and I, and our neighbors and communities, are facing the cumulative effect of over 40 years' worth of crafted misinformation, whipped into a frenzy by the now previous administration. While many cite President Reagan's repeal of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987 as the beginning of the era of rage-filled, reason-defying, bloodthirsty political rants on AM radio promoted as entertainment by the kind of irresponsible media that now bequeaths to us public psychopaths like Alex Jones, our modern age of destructive, falsehood-driven media can be traced back even further, to Reed Irvine's comparatively sober Accuracy In Media movement from the late 1960s.
As I tell friends, colleagues, and volunteers who aren't old enough to remember, our political discourse wasn't always as toxic as many on the right have made it today. Congress had a 40-year period of largely progressive and effective policymaking from 1954 to 1994, when compromise was key, and working together in good faith to find solutions across party lines as partners was normal, and valued. Our political process must to return to that tradition.
The ugly, chronological points that fueled our national schism: Lee Atwater and the 1988 presidential election, Newt Gingrich and the 1994 midterms, the absurdity of the Tea Party in the 2010 midterms, along with increasingly destructive media outlets more concerned about likes and views, controversy and conflict, rather than effective, sober reporting, are still with us. It's up to all of us to move beyond that, and put a premium on a shared reality in which we make real world decisions for the betterment of all Americans.
Some people think politicians are all talk. Plenty are.
But the key is listening, and working together with compassion to address the problems of our nation, and our neighborhoods, together. I hope you'll join me in this effort here in San Diego. More to come on that front soon.
In the meantime, I hope you, your family, and your loved ones are safe and well. Take a moment to breathe in the air and appreciate this day, and celebrate our deliverance from ignorant tyranny. And resolve to remain engaged to ensure fringe madness remains on the margins, not in seats of power.
By Tommy Hough
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it's going to be a relatively light year for legislation at the Assembly with fewer bills than usual. With the deadline for bill introduction in Sacramento still several weeks away, we aren't entirely sure what will be introduced just yet, but one of the more intriguing bits of policy is a bill to be backed by a group of legislators led by Sen. Scott Wiener, Sen. Monique Limon, and Assemblymember Robert Rivas to ban fracking. That's a Very Big Deal, and something we should encourage to ensure is done without gratuitous loopholes.
There will likely be a bill to establish a greater protective buffer for health purposes between oil and natural gas drilling sites and homes, workplaces, and schools. A bill on this matter passed the Assembly last year as AB 345, but was stopped in the Senate Natural Resource and Water Committee by intense lobbying by the California Building Trades Council and oil industry.
One of the more notable environmental bills to come out of the last session was AB 2731, which went into effect on New Year's Day. AB 2731 concerns the NAVWAR site near Old Town that's been identified as the nucleus of the new SANDAG "Grand Central Station" transportation hub proposal in conjunction with the city, airport authority, and port. NAVWAR is an acronym for Naval Information Warfare Systems Command.
If you're wondering, yes, NAVWAR is the former SPAWAR, i.e. the Space and Naval Warfare System Center, which changed its name in 2019. The final version of AB 2731, signed into law in October, essentially creates a path for the project to move forward with judicial streamlining that exempts it from adhering to CEQA, i.e. the California Environmental Quality Act., and instead relies on an environmental review to be conducted by the U.S. Navy.
Whatever you may think of SANDAG and the Five Big Moves proposal, we all agree a modern, clean-energy transportation system is critical for our region, but there's no reason why these kinds of capital projects should be excused from the basic environmental oversight and rules we ask of everyone who builds in this state to adhere to. Not only is the landmark passage of CEQA in 1970 what keeps California looking and feeling like California, but the basic components of CEQA are part of what we use to base our expectations and goals on in implementing and measuring the progress of the City of San Diego's Climate Action Plan. We must always resist efforts to weaken CEQA, whether in Sacramento, or on a project-by-project basis.
I was very pleased to see San Onofre State Beach at last receive the full protection the park has long deserved, and needed, as the result of Gov. Newsom signing into law AB 1426 in October, which my friend and fellow environmentalist Stefanie Sekich-Quinn from Surfrider has been leading the fight on throughout her career. There must never be a freeway, or any kind of development, considered again through the Donna O'Neill Conservancy and San Onofre's San Mateo Campground along the length of San Mateo Creek, the very last intact watershed in Southern California south of Los Angeles that empties onto the beaches that make up the Trestles surf break at the mouth of the creek along the San Diego and Orange county line.
There were several other bills in the last session I'd like to see have their "day in court" and move forward. One is Sen. Toni Atkins' SB 1100, which addresses the myriad of problems facing the state as the result of climate change and sea level rise. I've been saying for years, going back to my time at the San Diego Surfrider chapter, that our region must begin to plan for a managed retreat from the sea, in both low-lying areas and steep seaside bluffs.
Also, Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia's AB 2839 would establish a California Deserts Conservancy within the Natural Resources Agency to protect, conserve, and manage ecosystems and resources in California's desert regions in both the Mojave (high) and Colorado (low) deserts as a compliment to the 1994 California Desert Protection Act. Such an initiative could lend additional funding and preservation measures, as well as enhanced Indigenous management, to places like the Indio Hills along the San Andreas Fault in the Coachella Valley Preserve.
Regarding state regulatory agencies, the California Energy Commission is expected to adopt a new round of Title 24 building codes designed to cut energy use. Environmental groups are pushing for the code to be updated to set a more rigorous standard that will electrify new buildings, and end the inclusion of natural gas in new buildings built after 2022.
The California Air Resources Board is developing new standards to encourage trucking companies to transition fleets to zero-emission electric vehicles. This will be especially important for trucks in and around our ports, including San Diego and Long Beach. This has also been one of the key issues in the discussions over new comissioner appointees to the Port of San Diego.
Speaking of electric vehicles, the governor proposed his 2021/22 budget last week, which includes a proposal to expand incentives for electric vehicles. That's consistent with the need to quickly transition the transportation sector to curb the effects of climate change and reduce air pollution. In my opinion the city, county, and other communities should incentivize, if not make it easier and more affordable overall, for motorists to purchase hybrids or emission-free cars as a component of reducing our greenhouse gas emissions.
Newsom's budget also calls for new fees as part of proposed reforms to the Department of Toxic Substances Control. The fee and reforms will require a two-thirds vote of the legislature for passage, but the governor hasn't shown much ability to work with the legislature thus far, so getting the department's fees passed will be a test of his commitment and ability to win legislative support.
Another proposal in the budget is to increase fees on pesticides, one of the most destructive sources of poisons and toxins in our watersheds, bays, and lagoons. The cumulative amount of toxins and heavy metals that enter Mission Bay every year at Rose Creek, for example, is bad enough, but the problem is compounded by "toxic events" when rainfall activates poisonous runoff. While fees are used to support pesticide regulation and enforcement, this too will require a two-thirds vote.
Finally there's the implementation of Gov. Newsom's executive order to conserve 30 percent of state lands and coastal waters by 2030. The reason, as the governor puts it, is to fight species loss and ecosystem destruction. That's great, we're all in favor of it, but we'd like to see more on the implementation as California would join 38 countries in a commitment to conservation in doing so. Apparently there are implementation plans for the "30 by 30" proposal, as well as for a similarly-issued an executive order in September to require all new cars and passenger trucks sold in California be zero-emission vehicles by 2035.
By Tommy Hough
Today was one of the most disgraceful days in the history of our republic.
Can anyone look upon what our nation has become over the last four years and see any connection to the 240 years of American democratic norms, in times of peace and war, that preceded it?
Many of us saw this coming, and tried to warn our neighbors against giving a man like the president, enabled by a disgraceful array of bootlickers and apologists, the reins of power.
With the constant assault of willful, right-wing misinformation that permeates our media environment and has fractured families along political and social faultlines, is it any wonder so many of our neighbors have grown increasingly confused, bewildered, and fearful as they struggle to stay financially afloat and healthy, especially in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic?
Today's terrorism did not occur in a vacuum. It has been enabled over the last 40 years by well-funded campaigns of intentional deception to politically divide and conquer, long-standing attempts to paint government as an enemy rather than a representative reflection of ourselves, and to deny that we have the power to improve our nation in the name of a more perfect union.
The Greatest Generation went overseas to fight fascism and threats to democracy like those we've seen today. Our nation has twisted itself into a pretzel to inoculate it from threats of foreign terrorism in the years since the 9/11 attacks.
But in 245 years our nation has never been subjected to a coup attempt of anything resembling the magnitude of what is occurring now. It is a disgrace. To find anything comparable we would have to go back to the conspiracy to murder President Lincoln and members of his cabinet in the spring of 1865.
That today's violence and sedition were incited, in broad daylight, by the sitting President of the United States, who was actively adding fuel and oxygen to this fire long before his impeachment and electoral loss, is extraordinary.
Those involved with today's sedition may be fighting for Donald Trump. But we are fighting for our nation, for decency, for equality, for equity, and for the institutions and norms that, while under exceptional stress, continue to serve our nation. They need care.
Our Founding Fathers were many things, but they were wise, and they bequeathed to us the ability to continue improving our nation with an apparatus that is only as effective as those we seek to represent us as its caretakers.
These will be trying years ahead. Democracy requires eternal vigilance, and it demands it no more so than at this moment. I hope you'll join me in this pursuit.
May you and your loved ones be safe and well.
By Tommy Hough
Since last year's impeachment proceedings, the Trump administration and its ever-present array of constitutional crises has devolved into a cult so firmly entrenched among the cravenly ambitious, the foolish, the weak, and the deranged, that a full 140 elected GOP officials (perhaps more by Wednesday) are about to become even more complicit in the president's daily stream of lies, high crimes and misdemeanors, cataclysmic failure of leadership, and seditious statements on the results of the 2020 election and the normal, peaceful transition of power that has served our nation well for 245 years, in times of peace and war.
These Republican elected officials are doing so at the behest of right-wing radio, TV, and online hosts desperate to continue feeding upon the cult of Trump for ratings, however appalling a failure for average Americans the Trump administration has been. They are also doing so out of a fear of Trump and the wrath of his Twitter account. But more than anything, these 140 elected GOP officials are doing so at the behest of an electorate they believe no longer considers functioning in a shared reality a requirement for the job. Instead of asking the best of their neighbors, they are cravenly indulging their most paranoid and deranged voters for whom reason means nothing – the cumulative effect of 35 years' worth of daily right-wing media conditioning. Yet despite their numbers, they do not speak for a majority of Americans.
One year ago Republican senators were served up an opportunity on a silver platter, with Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee having done all the necessary work, to convict President Trump on House impeachment charges. With one notable exception, GOP senators opted not to convict the president despite overwhelming evidence Trump solicited foreign interference in the 2020 election to aid his re-election effort, then obstructed the inquiry by telling administration officials to ignore subpoenas for documents and testimony while promoting an absurd conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
The result? GOP senators abdicated their oaths and responsibility as senators, American citizens, and stewards of the American democratic tradition, and acquitted the president. To further pass the buck, they said voters would need to decide for themselves the ultimate verdict for Trump in November since Republican senators were too cowardly to do so in February. And of course, in November, the voters decided.
Now, with even the twin escape hatches of an impeachment and Electoral College-certified election results giving Republican lawmakers all the cover even the most cowardly political toad would possibly need to just do the right thing, those same Republicans still want to overturn the legitimate results of the election – in many cases the same election that secured their own seats – with zero evidence compelling them to do so.
We have reached the nadir of the Republican party, and over the last four years have seen it become nothing more than a tool of Trumpism and his brand of loot-the-treasury Third World authoritarianism. Beyond the steady stream of blatantly false, criminal misinformation about the validity of what was the most secure election in our nation's history, the GOP's ongoing attempts to stage a coup on the heels of their incumbent president's loss in both the popular and electoral vote is a disgrace without precedent in our nation's history – and that includes Watergate, Iran-Contra, and the Teapot Dome scandals. Those were parking tickets compared to this.
I've long said the national GOP gave up on governing in good faith in 1994, but any concern the GOP may have once had about the appearance of naked partisanship has been swept away. It is as blatant a power grab as has ever been seen in our history, fueled by a GOP infuriated at the idea of actually having to relinquish power at some level after driving our nation into the ground for the second time in a dozen years. As we've seen, Trump and other Republicans are not above calling for or enabling mob rule in order to facilitate their continued rule, as undemocratic as even that rule has been. A two-party system of governance cannot function when one party refuses, time and time again for decades, to deal in good faith.
At this hour the Vice President of the United States, as grotesque a Trump lapdog and sycophant as any, is endorsing an effort led by the wretched Texas senator Ted Cruz to deny the reality of the presidential election results. The smooth-talking Cruz and his handful of reality-jettisoning seditionists are well aware their attempt will fail, but are carrying through with the exercise to further bludgeon and delegitimize an already-weakened Joe Biden before his administration takes office, just as the well-funded "citizens movement" of the Tea Party did ahead of President Obama's inauguration 12 years ago.
Of course, this is assuming the current occupant of the White House leaves at all. Despite having taken every opportunity over the last four years to disgrace the office he holds, I'm quite certain Trump will never leave, he'll just keep on behaving as "president" by continuing to use the White House presidential seal after Jan. 20th, along with anything else he and his family can steal.
Make no mistake: You and I and are in the midst of our nation's greatest constitutional crisis since the shooting began in the Civil War 160 years ago. The GOP's blatant support of baseless insurrection in the face of abundant, contrary evidence is nothing less than a slow-moving coup – itself without precedent in our nation's history – and the most shocking, stunning abdication of American democracy and the American social contract.
It is also the only logical end to the steady stream of ugly partisanship unleashed by an embittered GOP when the party first moved to nationalize elections for partisan ends during the 1994 midterm elections, and ceased functioning as a genuine partner in governance.
The Republican Party, and all too many of its spokespersons and standard bearers, have embraced a cult of racist nihilism, aggressively fostered a climate of mistrust and rudderless doubt in institutions they once claimed to have held dear, and have repeatedly fed oxygen into a simmering, low-intensity civil war with one side armed with weapons they insist the other half of the nation is desperate to take away.
That this is occurring – and has been occurring, in broad daylight, for months – in the midst of the nation's worst pandemic in 100 years is an ignominy and infamy that must never be forgotten, if we and our nation are fortunate enough to survive. Generations of Americans, historians, and anyone with a passing interest in this country will be unable to understand how any of this occurred without first acknowledging the successful, cumulative effect of right-wing propaganda, lies, and misinformation on a willing, albeit increasingly desperate populace over the last 35 years.
I only hope the United States doesn't go the path of the Weimar Republic or other faltering democracies, saddled with a weak chief executive unable to rise above the din of a growing, uncontrollable right-wing clamor. I have no doubt Joe Biden, who I genuinely like, seeks to positively serve as a beacon of hope as the nation comes out of the immediate Trump era, but he is essentially a sign to status quo elites that "things are returning to normal" on the immediate stage of the executive branch. That will be a relief in the short term, but if that's all Biden is able to achieve, he will fail.
Mr. Biden is not a come hell or high water, buck stops here, "follow me" leader in the mold of Harry Truman or Cory Booker. He's a political lifer. In an era in which he will be challenged by violent, right-wing domestic terrorism and fringe groups enabled by bottomless amounts of money designed to make it appear the nation is on the verge of chaos – thus setting the stage for an even more disingenuous, dangerous movement to "restore order" – not even a split Senate plus Kamala Harris' vote as Vice President may help push his wish list agenda forward. After all, the most immediate concern is cleaning up the wreckage and repairing the damage of four years of Donald Trump.
Every illegality this nation tolerates, every Republican lawmaker on Wednesday that votes against the tide of reality and history with the Cult of Trump and its failed, reprehensible excuse for an administration, hastens this dark future. Perhaps our biggest flaw is never believing the GOP will go as low as they do. But at every turn, they continue to defy expectations, logic, and reality. Look no further than the root argument our now-former mayor is making against the sitting governor of California.
We continue to be failed by our own imagination as to just how bad it can get, and as a result, we're constantly bringing the wrong weapon to the wrong fight. However ridiculous they may appear, the blatantly racist, authoritarian, violent, modern American inheritors of Hitler's Brownshirts marching on D.C. ahead of Wednesday, in opposition to what should be a normal transition of power, are armed, determined, headstrong, paranoid beyond all reason, and will travel thousands of miles in the belief of absurdities involving pizza parlors and video games.
These will be difficult, trying years ahead. If democracy requires eternal vigilance, it demands it no more than at this moment.
By Newkirk Johnson
During the terrible years of Nazi rule in Germany, Adolf Hitler and his loyal propagandist Joseph Goebbels were notorious for utilizing the era's mass communications as part of a strategy of lying on a grand scale. "If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it," was Goebbels' philosophy.
Today this propaganda technique is commonly known as the "Big Lie," used by Fox News and a variety of other irresponsible media outlets and demagogue politicians on a daily, even hourly, basis to gaslight a willing public and viewing audience on a scale unimaginable to Hitler and Goebbels and the considerable 20th century mass media apparatus at their disposal.
Similarly, in recent years, a retired attorney and mountain bike advocate named Ted Stroll has promoted a "Big Lie" via an organization with the seemingly benign name of the Sustainable Trails Coalition (STC). The coalition's singular mission is to radically alter the Wilderness Act of 1964 in order to allow mountain biking in all of the nation's designated Wilderness areas protected as part of the National Wilderness Preservation Act. While that may sound considerable, designated Wilderness areas make up only three percent of the overall inventory of federal public lands in the U.S.
Nevertheless, the Big Lie that Mr. Stroll and the Sustainable Trails Coalition promote is that the framers of the 1964 Wilderness Act, and the law itself, intended to allow mountain bikes in Wilderness areas. Despite the frequent repetition of this lie, there isn't the smallest kernel of validity to Mr. Stroll's claim.
Coupled with it is the insistent text on the STC website that "too many Americans" are "blocked" access from Wilderness. That in itself is an astonishing fabrication, and another Big Lie indeed. Wilderness areas are set aside for habitat preservation and conservation, but thousands of miles of trails crisscross our nation's wilderness areas. They are available to all able-bodied individuals on foot, and are neither designed nor graded for bicycles or motorized travel.
Like the growing community of motorized ORV users, the STC echoes the desire of a loud, entitled minority of mountain bikers that want immediate access to wherever they feel like riding, at any time. Mr. Stroll, for one, has vowed to ride his mountain bike along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), through dozens of designated wilderness areas, "before he dies."
This rogue group of mountain bikers, backed by a no-longer quiet, well-heeled cabal of mountain bike recreational interests, appear to believe their ends justify the means, and will say whatever they believe is necessary to gain entitled access everywhere, despite the ecological impacts and criteria clearly set out by the Wilderness Act in the management of Wilderness lands – and despite the overwhelming abundance of available public land throughout the U.S. that has long been accessible and available to mountain bikes and shared use.
Ed Zahniser, son of the 1964 Wilderness Act author Howard Zahniser, was quoted in an article in the Los Angeles Times in 2018, asking "How could they possibly say the original [Wilderness] act allows this? They are just making it up." Bicycles are clearly an example of the "mechanized transportation" barred by the Wilderness Act when President Johnson signed the policy into law on Sept. 3rd, 1964.
The quotes included here from Howard Zahniser leave no room to conclude that he and other framers of the Wilderness Act intended to allow bicycles in Wilderness areas. The 1964 law, in clear terms, codified a humility-based determination to put boundaries on humanity's impact on our nation's remaining primitive areas and wilderness, where humans are "only a visitor."
If you acquire only two books on conservation to read and refer to over the course of your lifetime, consider Aldo Leopold's 1949 classic A Sand County Almanac, and The Wilderness Writings of Howard Zanhiser.
And finally, please take a moment to take action with Wilderness Watch to keep mountain bikes out of our nation's designated wilderness areas.
Newkirk Johnson serves as the executive director of Friends of Allegheny Wilderness. He lives in Warren, Pennsylvania.
Photo © 2008 Felix Wong
By Tommy Hough
Downtown had its revenge on the rest of us on December 10th.
While arrangements and machinations naturally happen before any kind of official, overt political maneuvering occurs, it was clear from the outset of this bizarre moment in San Diego political history – in which the first order of business of an 8-to-1 Democratic majority on city council was to elevate the lone Republican – that the deals had been made, the die had been cast, and minds had been made up.
Nevertheless, I was honored to be one of the over 240 San Diegans to speak in favor of Councilmember Monica Montgomery Steppe as San Diego City Council president.
Here are my remarks as written.
Good evening, my name is Tommy Hough, I'm in District 6 in Mira Mesa.
I realize it's been a very long day, and for the newest members of this body this is certainly being thrown into the deep end first. But as councilmembers, this is indeed part of the job, and as a previous caller said, this is the moment where the rubber is meeting the road upon when you once said to yourself, "You know, I think I can do a better job here than what's been done before."
I know each of you want to do what's right, and we want you to succeed.
The reason Councilmember Montgomery Steppe is held in such high regard by the many, many individuals who have called in today is because she truly functions as an independent voice on this council who owes nothing to anyone, except her constituents.
As a legacy, a fine first vote for you would be to vote for Councilmember Montgomery Steppe as council president. She will be exceptional, but don't take my word for it. Take the word of the over 200 residents of this city, many of them your constituents, that you've heard from today.
We're pulling for you. We want you to succeed. Please vote for Monica and let's move this city forward with the truly progressive, independent, equitable agenda that's available to us, if we would only have the courage to choose it.
By Tommy Hough
Good morning. My name is Tommy Hough, I'm a San Diego resident, and I represent 430 environmentally-minded conservation voters in our region who are members of San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action. I'm the organization's co-founder, I served as its original president, and I currently serve as the organization's vice president for policy.
The greenwashing being promoted today by proponents of this land swap is really quite shocking, and it shouldn't take much for you to see through it. Proponents of this plan claim to favor some kind of mythical "balance" between commercial interests and environmental concerns, but when goalposts are moved, when straw man arguments are offered about protecting land that's already been protected, and when agencies stenographically allow plan proponents to claim something will aid the environment when it does the exact opposite, that's a clear indication there is a complete lack of balance. Claiming there is one to find common ground at, under these circumstances, is fiction.
As I'll say several times over the course of my remarks, Rancho Jamul Ecological Reserve was identified and set aside for conservation for a reason – it didn't just fall out of the clear blue sky. Environmental laws that protect habitat and species enabled, in part, the reserve's founding. Why are we even talking about wildfire concerns at this site when we shouldn't be building in the reserve to begin with?
I'm amazed this board would even entertain the notion that vital, critical habitat for the endangered Quino Checkerspot Butterfly, along with specific habitat for so many of our incredibly diverse roster of species in San Diego County, is somehow so disposable that the reserve's status is really only a placeholder until something more lucrative comes along that someone can make a buck on. If so, it would then be abundantly clear our conservation enforcement processes have become irreparably corrupted.
The suggestion of "exchanging" critical habitat protected as part of the reserve in order to build, in its place, another sprawl housing project with more housing that no one who actually works for a living in our region can afford, is so wretchedly out of step with California's once-sterling reputation as an environmentally-minded state that it's as unprecedented as the Trump administration's undoing of the boundaries of National Monuments. That's how bad this proposal is. And that is not what we Californians expect from our state agencies.
This isn't just open space. Swapping out parcels of Rancho Jamul Ecological Reserve for other acres of lesser biological value, as though all open space and acreage is equal, is not what was intended for these lands receiving the ecological reserve designation in the first place. That is not the mindset, nor the spirit, by which wildlife resources are to be managed.
You've heard from organizations in the Bay Area, Los Angeles, the Central Coast, the North Coast, the Central Valley, Gold Country, the High Desert, and other corners of our state that are opposed to this scheme. If such a land swap was proposed, say, for one of our state parks, a similar outcry would also be heard throughout the state.
In San Diego in the recent past we reacted swiftly and in massive numbers when a needless freeway, whose only purpose was to enable more environmentally-destructive sprawl development in our fire-prone, wild backcountry, was proposed along the length of the last steelhead-producing watershed south of Los Angeles, and was similarly managed in a state of preservation as part of a California State Park. We reacted similarly when the city of San Diego willingly changed local zoning to enable the construction of a Climate Action Plan-defying office park – as pointless an edifice as any in the pandemic era – right next to one of our city's great natural preserves without a hint of self-consciousness.
Nothing outweighs the value of Rancho Jamul Ecological Reserve and its original intention of preserving its specific lands and habitat. The location isn't arbitrary. The soil and vegetation at Rancho Jamul are highly specific to the survival of the Quino Checkerspot. That's why it was designated as such in the first place.
Please do not look at the choice before you today as a narrow legal decision – but do consider the broad implications and precedent this proposal will set to enable other projects designed to subvert the very modest conservation protections we have in our region.
Please do NOT approve this land swap. As Dan Silver of the Endangered Habitats League testified earlier, consider the "toxic optics" of this deal, and understand how they will reflect on you and this board. Protect the integrity of our preserved lands. Please vote to break the cycle of taking bulldozers to vital, already-protected habitat that was enabled and set aside by your predecessors, our state, and by years of work by dedicated, local advocates and citizens. Thank you.
Photo courtesy of the San Diego Natural History Museum.
By Tommy Hough
Born in 1940 and murdered barely two months after his 40th birthday in 1980, John Lennon has now been gone as long as he was alive.
Forty years ago, just past 11 p.m. on December 8th, 1980, the world found out about the murder of John Lennon from Howard Cosell and Frank Gifford, as the Miami Dolphins played the New England Patriots on ABC's Monday Night Football. Just as the game was about to go into halftime, Cosell made the first of two announcements about Lennon's murder, reading official copy provided by ABC's news division.
It was as weird a pop culture moment as any that the world learned about one of the ultimate rock and roll tragedies from Howard Cosell, but it's clear that Lennon's murder affected Cosell during that broadcast, as he had welcomed Lennon into the Monday Night Football broadcast booth as a guest just six years earlier when Lennon was promoting his Walls and Bridges album in 1974.
I wasn't watching Monday Night Football that night because I had to go to school the next day and was already in bed, but it was the first thing I heard about the next day when I woke up and the radio was reporting the news of Lennon's murder in between Beatles songs. I remember eating a bowl of cereal in stunned silence, watching the Today show.
I was knocked into such a deep state of shock I couldn't even speak. I don't remember going to school or talking about Lennon's murder, or anything else, the entire day. Other than one idiot kid who ran around before class in the morning yelling about it (I guess that's how he was working out his shock over the news) most of my classmates didn't seem affected, if they knew at all. It was just a Tuesday.
But I knew, and I was devastated. When I came home from school that afternoon the shock had worn off. I dropped everything, the grief seized me, and I cried my eyes out for the next two days.
As strange as it may sound I cannot think of anything that traumatized me more as a boy than John Lennon's murder. I had a happy childhood, surrounded by a great deal of music and a loving family, but the Beatles made me particularly happy. As much as I always heard what was playing on the radio and in the car, the Beatles were my band.
Lennon's murder was the first time I felt as though something was ripped from me. It came without warning, and seemed to violently strip away my innermost self in an awful, overwhelming hemorrhage of grief and loss. I can't recall anything else like it as a kid, and I can still feel that bookmarked shock and hurt from 1980 on my inner feelings chronology today.
Having grown up on the Beatles, it was about four years before I could put on one of their albums again. There was just too much immediacy to the tragedy of Lennon's murder for me to able to enjoy their music, and so from the final weeks of 1980 to about the summer of 1984, I went into the only time in my life when I was in a "Beatles blackout," where the band that meant so much to me as a boy had become too much to bear. It was just too sad.
When I finally began to emerge from my blackout and listen to the Beatles again, it was like rediscovering a beloved old friend with memories that went back years. I found I loved the Beatles even more. As a teen I was suddenly getting so much more out of the Beatles' music than just the happy, singalong vibes of my childhood, and that in itself was a wonderful sense of renewal and discovery that helped me put Lennon's murder, however awful and vile, into a sense of place and perspective.
From there I began to explore the Beatles' solo material in addition to all the other music I'd been listening to in the interim that I'd also come to love. But it was such a joy to reconnect with the Beatles, and like millions of others around the world I carry their music inside my head and heart today. Like all the music and songs I treasure that have been part of my life, the Beatles have been there for me in good times and bad, and when I've needed them the most.
An Erased Entry
As a boy I had a copy of Nicholas Schaffner's 1977 book The Beatles Forever, which my parents had given me for my eighth birthday. I devoured the book and pored over it, and it was a constant companion.
Within days of Lennon's murder in December 1980 I wrote about his death in the book's flyleaf, ahead of the title page. This was unusual for me because I never wrote in books or on album covers, but for some reason I was compelled to write, in pencil, about Lennon's death, and "report" the news of his murder and my feelings about it. I even dated the entry.
For some reason, I erased the entry a few years later when I was returning to enjoying the Beatles' music. I'm not sure why, but I remember doing it. Perhaps it was my way of gaining some control over how Lennon's death affected me, or perhaps I simply wanted to enjoy my copy of The Beatles Forever as I had before Lennon's life was taken from him.
I don't think I was necessarily embarrassed about what I'd written, but a 15-year old kid doesn't necessarily look at what an 11-year old kid may have written with fondness or some sense of posterity. It's too bad I didn't save what I wrote somewhere, because the kid who wrote that entry in his Beatles book in 1980 was still reeling from a kind of shock and emotional duress, and all these decades later I would've liked to have known what he thought, what he said, and how he tried to resolve it.
Reagan at the Dakota
I've never been able to find TV news footage of this on-line anywhere, but in the days after John Lennon's murder I remember seeing Ronald Reagan on TV at the crime scene at the Dakota on New York City's Upper West Side, where Lennon and Yoko Ono lived
At the time, Reagan was the president-elect, having won a landslide victory over incumbent Jimmy Carter the month before. Reagan likely stopped by the Dakota because he was in New York on some other business, or perhaps he was visiting one of the many celebrities who also lived in the New York City landmark.
However much Reagan may have been loathe to admit it, millions of Beatles fans had just voted for him as president, and no doubt he or someone on his team thought it was a good idea for him to be seen and pay his respects, especially since the nation was in a state of collective mourning.
But it always struck me as odd that Reagan was there at all, as though he had any connection to the Beatles other than railing against their music and haircuts, and as though he wasn't anything less than complicit in being aware of the Nixon administration's surveillance of Lennon a few years earlier.
I remember Reagan saying something about Lennon's murder being a tragedy, which it obviously was. I also seem to remember him being asked if Lennon's murder had changed his opinion on the easy availability of handguns in the United States.
To be clear, I may be conflating the timing and locale of Reagan's remarks as president-elect, but I recall Reagan said his position on handguns had not changed, which I found outrageous since he had just been at, or was at, the very site where John Lennon had four hollow-point rounds blasted into his back by a deranged assailant obsessed with Catcher In the Rye, and who believed that Lennon himself was some kind of an "imposter."
Of course, a little more than three months later, Reagan himself would be shot by a .22 caliber handgun in the hands of a deranged assailant obsessed with Jodie Foster's role in the 1976 Martin Scorsese movie Taxi Driver. In addition to wounding three others and ultimately killing White House press secretary James Brady decades after the shooting, we now know the 1981 assassination attempt nearly killed the 40th president.
Reagan was lucky. John Lennon was not.
A Few Favorite Lennon Solo Songs
"Mind Games" (1973)
One of my favorite John Lennon solo songs was the title cut from his 1973 album Mind Games. Lennon seldom ventured into the dreampop world he was so adept at after "I Am the Walrus" and the White Album's "Cry Baby Cry," but "Mind Games" is a wonderful song that's more metaphysical than a critique on the unfortunate earthbound human practice.
I remember hearing this song as a kid on the old 1020 KDKA while I was in the back seat of my parents' giant 1970 Chrysler Newport, and I've cherished it ever since, especially the humorously ironic but still meaningful closing line of "I want you to make love not war. I know – you've heard it before."
The video since released for the song was actually filmed about a year after the "Mind Games" single and album came out, with Lennon walking around Central Park on a golden autumn afternoon on his way to a performance of the off-Broadway production of Lonely Hearts Club Band On the Road, which was playing at the Beacon Theater at Broadway and West 74th Street.
"Stand By Me" (1975)
John Lennon's cover of the 1959 Ben E. King classic was recorded for his Rock 'n' Roll album of vintage 50s and early 60s rock and roll covers, which he was working on with co-producer Phil Spector intermittently throughout his "Lost Weekend" period, and which was eventually released to the public in early 1975.
The arrangement Lennon opted for here was typically big for the era, and in lesser hands could have run the risk of turning into a campy, Vegas-style vamp. But Lennon wisely opted to keep his powder dry on the verses and leaned into the emotional rave-ups on the chorus, with the nearly bare opening of Lennon's acoustic guitar and accompanying organ paving the way for what became one of his greatest, most urgent solo vocal performances that enabled him to truly remake the song in his own image.
"Power to the People" (1971)
Years after this great single came out, Lennon admitted that some of the songs he wrote and positions he espoused as part of his radical leftist phase in the early 70s was to simply enable him to move past his Beatles identity and be taken more seriously as a songwriter by radical icons like Angela Davis and John Sinclair. Lennon said he saw it as an extension of his "Working Class Hero" identity (another great Lennon song), even though the other three Beatles acknowledged Lennon grew up in far more of a middle class setting than the rest of them did.
Nevertheless, Apple released this stomping, crowd-pleasing single in early 1971, eight months before the release of Lennon's benchmark Imagine album. It wasn't exactly a continuation of "Revolution," but it celebrates taking it to the streets and the rights of working families, while calling out leftist allies for behind-the-door misogyny.
"Oh Yoko" (1971)
This lovely, melodic, folk rock number from Lennon's 1971 Imagine album got a second (maybe third) lease on life when it appeared in the soundtrack of Wes Anderson's 1998 movie Rushmore, and it's since gone on to be appreciated as one of Lennon's classic solo tracks and a heartfelt ode to his wife.
While the Imagine album is loaded with some of Lennon's best solo melodies and songs, like the vulnerable "Jealous Guy," the vitriolic realpolitik of "Gimme Some Truth," the cruelly accurate putdown of his former songwriting partner in "How Do You Sleep," and the full-on jam of "I Don't Want to Be a Soldier," the happy, puppy dog domesticity of "Oh Yoko" closes the album with a pitter patter of swirling pianos, acoustic guitars, and harmonicas.
"I'm Losing You" (1980)
Recorded as part of the Double Fantasy sessions in the summer of 1980, this grinding version of "I'm Losing You" features Cheap Trick backing Lennon, but for some reason this take didn't make the cut to appear on the final version of the Double Fantasy album, as Lennon opted for a later recording of the song featuring the cream of New York session musicians.
Fortunately, this version of "I'm Losing You" was made available on the John Lennon Anthology box set in 1998, and on the smaller, single-disc companion Wonsaponatime, showing the grit with which Lennon was returning to recording and songwriting in 1980 after a five-year absence from record making, which in those days was akin to an ice age or two.
"Bring On the Lucie (Freda People)" (1973)
Following the landslide re-election of Richard Nixon in November 1972, Lennon began to return to a more personal style of songwriting and away from the rock and roll radicalism that had earned him a spot on Nixon's "enemies list."
Nevertheless, even as he whipped marvelous new state-of-the-relationship songs into shape for his Mind Games album like "Out the Blue," "I Know," and the dreamy "You Are Here," he still had a parting shot for Tricky Dick in the form of "Bring On the Lucie," which appeared, initially, to have been inspired by the murderous hostage-taking escape of the Soledad Brothers from the Marin County Courthouse in 1970.
Lennon streamlined the "freda people" lyrics into a near-dialogue with an imaginary Nixon in four of the song's six verses, speaking directly to early 70s Law and Order paranoias. With the shouts of "stop the killing," and charging the song's antagonists with slipping and sliding "down the hill on the blood of the people you killed," Lennon was all but indicting the Nixon administration for the waves of unrestricted B-52 strikes on North Vietnam in December 1972 that forced Hanoi back to the bargaining table, but which caused an uproar among world leaders who said Nixon and the U.S. were committing war crimes (they were).
Strawberry Fields "Imagine" mosaic photo by Oded Damzow
Dakota photo by Tommy Hough
By Tommy Hough
We hope you can join us this Tuesday, Dec. 8, at 6:30 p.m. for Packs Under Attack, the first of our new "Dems. Gone Wild" Environmental Report webinars dedicated to topics of wildlife conservation.
Facilitated by club member and wildlife advocate Brandon Coopersmith, and featuring guests from the California Wolf Center in Julian and my former Oregon Wild colleague Rob Klavins, Packs Under Attack will focus on the ongoing plight of American Gray Wolves and Mexican Wolves in the U.S.
Brandon and myself, along with many of our club members and those active in environmental and conservation spaces, have grave concerns about what could be a bloody, calamitous winter for wolves given the Trump administration's needlessly cruel order to remove wolves from the protections they've had under the auspices of the Endangered Species Act for the last 45 years.
In what was essentially a desperate, last-ditch political Hail Mary to win over voters in the Great Lakes states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan, the legacy of wolves in the Lower 48 states were subjugated into becoming a sacrificial lamb to preserve the legacy of Donald J. Trump. And while Trump may have lost the election, wolves have more to lose.
Fueled by bloodlust and old European superstitions, wolves were nearly hunted to extinction in the early 20th century from California to the Pacific Northwest to the Great Lakes. Wolf populations were further reduced due to development, agricultural expansion, and the destruction of habitat and the killing of the wolf's main prey species, like the American bison.
Beginning in 1995 in Yellowstone National Park, gray wolves were reintroduced into the wild in the contiguous U.S., and over the last 25 years have started to return to many of their historic habitats, most notably crossing to the west side of the Cascade Range with the arrival of Oregon wolf OR-7 ("Journey") in California in 2012. Only later did we learn OR-7 wasn't the only wolf to make the "journey" beyond the Cascade passes into northernmost California.
Register now via Zoom for this special "Dems. Gone Wild" Environmental Report.
Our January edition of Dems. Gone Wild will be a Zoom presentation titled Monarchs: A Royal Crisis, featuring Monarch butterfly advocate Victoria Abrenica of The Water Conservation Garden in El Cajon, and formerly with Ocean Connectors. In February we'll focus on the perilous future of bats in Flying Under the Radar. Details on both environmental reports will be posted soon.
In the meantime, we'll see you this Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. for Packs Under Attack.
By Tommy Hough
Good afternoon, my name is Tommy Hough. As many of you know I live in Mira Mesa.
There's a process concern and a substance concern going on here with getting rid of the park acreage standard and replacing it with a point system that pits park amenities vs. parkland acquisition. We need both, but because amenities are less expensive we're concerned parkland won't be acquired to the extent it needs to be given the increasing urbanization of our city.
There's been no outreach to planning groups or recreation councils about the city ending the park acreage standard. On that basis alone, this proposal should be delayed.
Also – and I want to be clear on this – Multiple Species Conservation Program (MSCP) lands set aside for habitat conservation must not, or ever, be considered for greater use in the form of trails and mountain bike routes. Those uses conflict with legal preservation requirements and would undo the entire purpose of the Multiple Species Conservation Program. These lands cannot be placed into a vulnerable open space matrix out of laziness or expedience.
In addition, commercial encroachment is not acceptable on any public lands, certainly not in parklands. Please delay a vote on this matter and allow for greater public input and greater sunshine in all corners of this policy.
A former San Diego broadcaster and media personality, Tommy Hough is a wilderness and conservation advocate, communications professional, California Democratic Party delegate, and the co-founder and former president of San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action. He ran as the endorsed Democratic candidate for San Diego City Council in District 6 in 2018.